Areas of Strength

American Literature and Culture

Mt. Rushmore


American Literature and Culture is our largest area of strength, with numerous PhD candidates working in these fields and an increasing number of PhD graduates now tenured or in tenure lines at colleges and universities around the country. The Americanist faculty is particularly strong in African American studies, with the work of Jennifer James, James A. Miller and Gayle Wald directly focused on African American literature and culture, and with the work of Antonio López and Robert McRuer also sustaining important connections to the field. The program has additional strengths in an array of other fields concerned with the construction of subjectivities and identities in modernity and postmodernity; these include Asian and Asian American studies, postcolonial theory (particularly postcolonial studies of India), women’s studies and gender studies, feminist theory, Latino/a studies, lesbian and gay/queer studies, disability studies, popular culture studies (particularly studies of music and American culture) and composition theory. Doctoral candidates in these fields are completing dissertations on discourses of addiction in twentieth-century cultures, the intersections of Asian American studies and disability studies, the ethics of “standard English” in the composition classroom and many other topics.


British and Postcolonial Studies, 1700–Present

Painting of a dock with boats and people gathered


The area of strength in British and Postcolonial Studies spans the field of modern British literature and culture post-1700, often with attention to questions about Empire and its aftermath. It has especial strengths in gender in British Literature, 18th-century literature of the British Empire, social history, aesthetics and photography, 19th and early 20th-century British literature and the visual arts, and colonial and postcolonial literature and cinema.

Seminars often focus on special topics as well as surveys of literary and cultural themes in the field of British and Postcolonial Literature and Culture. Graduate courses engage a theoretically and historically attentive approach to a wide range of materials, both canonical and non-canonical, in literature as well as visual culture. Seminars often complement and connect with those offered in the Medieval and Early Modern Studies and American Literature and Culture areas through theoretical intersections around transnational approaches and the analysis of gender and race.


Crip/Queer Studies

LGBTQ Rainbow Flag


The doctoral program in English at GW identifies Crip/Queer Studies as one of its primary areas of strength and invites applications focused on that area of strength. All students receive tuition remission, a monthly stipend, active mentorship in teaching, research and publication, and the opportunity to develop an independent research program with our internationally recognized faculty.

Our interdisciplinary seminars explore the intersections of marginalized embodiments (disability, sexuality, transgender, race, class, age) and their rigorous analysis within cultural, historical, literary and media contexts. We also focus on embodiment in relationship to economic, environmental, cross-species, as well as organic and inorganic interactions. Specialties include representation, media and communications, memoir, trauma studies, globalization, cross-cultural studies, body theory, political economy, history, narrative theory, medical humanities and art, among others. Students are actively mentored in research, pedagogy and professionalization. The program also operates through collaboration with other GW programs that include Crip/Queer Studies researchers, such as The Writing Program, Philosophy and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies.


Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Student reading an old Shakespeare folio in an archive setting


The area of strength in medieval and early modern studies was formed to take advantage of university-wide faculty strengths in these areas, as well as the rich resources for research available in Washington DC—most notably, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and the Library of Congress.

Seminars focus upon the transnational and postcolonial aspects of England and Europe. Special topics courses and surveys of literary and cultural themes are also offered. Graduate seminars examine a wide range of materials both canonical and non-canonical. Students are also expected to take some of their coursework through the Folger seminar series.

The English Department houses the GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute. The Institute sponsors frequent events and focuses upon early Europe within a transnational, theory-savvy frame.

Faculty members who regularly teach in the graduate program share many interests and have published widely.